Northwest NEWS

August 31, 1998


Local foundry provides tree grates for Wilmot, world



Andrew Walgamott/staff photos

Workers at Urban Accessories pour molten metal into molds to produce tree grates for Wilmot Gateway Park.

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The crucible tips and molten metal pours thick and orange into the molds. It stands out like neon in the dark foundry.
   As it courses through the intricate designs, fiery sparks lance out between sections of the mold with a "pop" while men in silver suits and face guards look carefully on.
   The liquid, once just scrap metal, begins cooling down from around 2800 degrees Fahrenheit. It's on its way to forming one of the eight sections that will one day be a tree grate at Woodinville's Wilmot Gateway Park.
   Urban Accessories, a nationally-known foundry tucked away near the King-Snohomish County line in the city's industrial area, is making about a dozen of the decorative grates, each valued at around $1,000, according to Park Olson, company marketing director.
   Finished, the six-foot in diameter silver grates inlaid with circles and crossbars will protect the trunks of flowering pear trees at the 3.7-acre riverside park.
   Urban Accessories is just one of hundreds of local businesses, organizations and individuals contributing their time or money to making Wilmot happen.
   But while you have probably heard of many of those chipping in, the foundry may be better known around the country than they are here, according to founder and owner Merry Haggard.
   She says their work is in highly visible locations across America.
   "Every morning when you tune in the Today Show," says Haggard, "you'll see our bollards." A bollard is a barrier typically used to separate pedestrians from vehicle traffic.
   Urban Accessories has done Tony Award plaques, their labor can be found in the homes of stars like Tom Hanks and Michael Jordan, and you may have seen their work in movies like "The Pelican Brief" or "The Fugitive," Haggard says. When Meg Ryan steps under a canopy in the movie "Sleepless in Seattle," you're seeing them as well, she adds.
   The company began 26 years ago without a foundry of its own. It grew on the strength of the urban renewal movement. Haggard said her ex-husband foresaw that people would be planting trees. Grates provide a level walking space under trees.
   Haggard describes herself in the company's early years as an "Avon Lady" type saleswoman, selling a product that not many others were offering. The company located in Sultan for a while, but moved to Woodinville about 10 years ago.
   They make the mundane beautiful.
   "One reason we're good is that foundries make things that aren't always beautiful," Haggard says, ticking off engine blocks, railroad rails and manhole covers. Ironically, the company melts down old engine blocks to create some of their products.
   On Haggard's wall is a Seattle manhole cover that has a cast map of the Emerald City's downtown area.
   Haggard maintains she doesn't want to become too well-known lest other foundry's realize how good the tree grate business can be.
   Still, Woodinville is, dare we misspell it, "grate-ful," that her company, and others, are helping flesh out the park on the Sammamish River.
   "We wouldn't even be out of the ground without corporate partners like Urban Accessories and community groups like the Woodinville Rotary," said Lane Youngblood, city parks director. Haggard said she knew of Wilmot, a former Molbak's president. Olson said the company was interested in supporting the park project and the memory of its namesake, Jerry Wilmot. She termed the contribution "a good way to give back to the local community."
   Another big supporter, the Woodinville Rotary, wrapped up the private campaign they launched in 1996 with their annual auction Aug. 30.
   Wilmot was a Rotary member until his early passing from ALS in 1995. Appreciating his work for Woodinville, the City Council renamed what was then called Woodinville Green Gateway Park after him in 1994.
   For all the buildup, construction on Wilmot actually began last March and is expected to wrap up this October. When finished, residents will have a place to listen to concerts, launch canoes, play and relax.
   Along with Urban Accessories and the Rotary, these companies and individuals have provided major park funding or donations according to the city: Anchor Fencing donated all construction fencing around the site, Hos Bros Construction did major site work and excavation, Hughes Printing provided printing services and cash, and Miller Boltjes Whitsell and Company, the Mystical Township of Grace, Winsom Trading, Westin Hotels and Resorts, Foxfire Jewelry, Boise Cascade and Karen Steeb all contributed funding for the park. And the donations continue to pour in. Last week, it was announced GTE had donated $2,500. "We try and give donations that benefit a wide variety of people," Marilyn Hoggarth, GTE Public Affairs manager said.
   Anyone interested in the auction, donations to the park or volunteer opportunities at city parks may contact the city Parks and Recreation Department at 489-2700.
   Editor's Note: The contributors listed in this article are just a sampling of the many who have donated to Wilmot Park.